Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs for Autism Speaks, travels the country advocating for families and individuals facing the challenges of autism. This is her ongoing series "On The Road For Autism Reform."
Sometimes on the road to autism insurance reform, you meet people who become lifelong friends. This happened to me on my very first experience with an autism insurance bill, in my home state of South Carolina. In 2004, following my son’s diagnosis, I had decided to move from D.C. to South Carolina to be closer to my family and to teach at a brand-new law school, the Charleston School of Law. Before the move, my son Ryan was participating in a treatment study at Kennedy Krieger, so I asked the folks there to help me find an ABA provider in South Carolina. One of the names they gave me was the South Carolina Early Autism Project, founded by two remarkable South Carolina women, Susan Butler and Ann Eldridge. I met first with Susan and knew I had found a kindred spirit.
A year after moving to South Carolina, I decided to write legislation to require health insurance to cover autism treatments, including ABA, as recommended by a doctor. I reached out to Susan and Ann for help finding other autism families who would be interested in the legislation. Their willingness to disseminate a letter for me to their large network was the genesis of the “Ryan’s Law Grassroots Gang,” which was instrumental in the passage of the South Carolina autism insurance bill.
Susan is one of those real movers and shakers I’ve met during my own autism journey that I am privileged to call a friend. This month, People magazine recognizes Susan and her son Collin, who truly has the inspirational story. Enjoy this spotlight!